Takata Corp. employees knew of serious safety and quality control issues as early as 2001, years before flaws in its automobile air bags surfaced, according to a U.S. Senate report released Monday ahead of a hearing.
The company also halted global safety audits to save money, the report issued by Democrats on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee said.
“The more evidence we see, the more it paints a troubling picture of a manufacturer that lacked concern,” Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, the highest-ranking Democrat on the committee, said in an e-mailed statement.
Defaults related to air bags, which can spew shrapnel at passengers when they deploy, have killed at least eight people and injured more than 100. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has ordered repairs on an estimated 34 million air-bag inflators.
The company was aware, or should have known, of lapses in manufacturing quality control as early as 2001, according to the report. Takata was told of three incidents involving faulty inflators in early 2007, and waited until late 2008 to issue a recall.
Takata said the Senate report, based on 13,000 documents collected by the committee for its investigation, had errors and that some of the company’s e-mails were taken out of context, according to an e-mailed statement. The company has continued its review of product quality and safety, it said in the statement.
“We are committed to proper manufacturing practices and to the safety of our employees and the driving public,” the company said in the statement.
The committee holds a hearing Tuesday in Washington on the Takata and NHTSA’s response.